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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Expert (09/05/13)

TITLE: The Right Approach
By Steve McClure
09/09/13


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“You don’t know everything!” The stocky teen behind the outburst tossed his bat into the dirt and stormed away from the plate, his quick stride kicking up dust under the temperate, late-afternoon sun. The slimmer, taller teen stared after his teammate, gesturing with one arm as if to bring him back. But Jersey stood alone, now, on the otherwise empty field. Jersey turned slowly away, looking far off into the cloudless azure sky, and strode toward the dugout to collect his gear.

“A bit abrupt,” I offered, standing aside as Jersey descended into the dugout.

“What do you know? You don’t play,” Quite right. I had never played ball – except for pick-up games when I was a kid. I just helped out here and there for the teen league.

“Too bad, though,” I commented, referring to the altercation. “You had a good suggestion. Bobby’s swing could use better follow-through.”

“Yeah, but he won’t listen,” Jersey quipped. “He could smack that ball out of the park if he’d only adjust his stance a bit.” Jersey shuffled his feet and raised his arms, mimicking the stance he had in mind.

I may not have been much of a ball player, but I had witnessed Jersey’s action. He could play ball. He might even be a star player for somebody one day (in my unlearned opinion).

“Why do you think he’s not listening?” I asked as Jersey stuffed his gear into his duffle bag.

“Stubborn, I guess,” Jersey mumbled. “Wants to do things his way…I don’t know.” He grabbed the bag, climbed out of the dugout, and started off.

“You ever hear of the word ‘winsome’?” I probed, falling in beside him.

“Win-some?” he repeated, questioningly.

“Yeah, engaging someone in an easy, tender-like way.”

“What’s that supposed to do?” he challenged.

“Well,” I began, matching his stride to keep up. “I know – and you know – that you have an edge in the game. And maybe Bobby knows it, too. But, no matter how much he might like to gain that edge, he has a certain amount of pride. We all have it. And it gets in the way.

Jersey pondered. “So, you’re saying my pride is the problem?”

“You don’t have any more pride than Bobby does,” I said. “I’m saying it’s the pride you both have that’s the challenge. That’s where ‘winsome’ comes in.”

“I don’t get it,” Jersey retorted, shaking his head and continuing his march toward the edge of the field.

“OK,” I began again. “Let’s say Bobby’s not a hard-head. Let’s say he’s just a little offended by advice. That’s the pride part. How might you offer advice without offending him?”

“I’m not trying to offend anybody,” Jersey snapped, reaching for the gate latch.

I reached the latch first, and hesitated. “Not intentionally,” I said slowly, softening my voice. He stopped, my hand still on the latch, and turned his head toward me. “Listen a sec, Jersey. You’ve got something good to say. Think about how you might say it so it will be received.” He looked at me quizzically. “What was it you said to him just now?”

“I told him his stance was wrong.”

“How would you take it if someone told you the same thing?”

Jersey was thinking.

“If you could do it over, how might you approach Bobby”?

“I dunno…maybe I’d say, ‘I could show you a better stance’.”

“Better,” I said. “But how about beginning with a compliment?”

“A compliment?” he asked, a bit confused.

“Sure. Something like, ‘You’ve got a great swing, Bobby. You meet the ball really well. If you’re game, maybe we could put a little more oomph in it. I’d like to see you put more balls over the fence’.”

“You think he’d go for that?” Jersey asked, almost to himself.

“No guarantee,” I said matter-of-factly. “But you think it might be worth a shot?”

-------------------------------

I had to fly out of town on business for a fews weeks. I called the teen league manager one evening to catch up on things.

“Things are going well, he said. The Pirates seem to be making a move up in the standings.

“That’s news,” I responded.

“Say, you remember the husky kid the Pirates brought on this season?” he asked.

“You mean Bobby?” I questioned.

“Yeah, Bobby,” he confirmed. “Strangest thing – he’s started hitting better. Last game they had, he knocked three balls out of the park.”


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This article has been read 120 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Nancy Bucca09/12/13
I love this story and the advice sprinkled throughout on how to help people improve their "swing." What a great lesson for us all (no matter what side of the bat we're standing on)!
Larry Whittington09/12/13
Good story. It flowed well, good lesson to be learned. It was a nice setting to teach such a lesson.

Don't we all need to learn lessons like this or be reminded of them.

Just for practice, write a short story of what happened to cause Bobby's improvement.

That would be interesting.
Judith Gayle Smith09/13/13
I love this! Are you positive you are a "beginner"? This is so well written, the spacing is excellent, and the theme right on target.

I expect to see at least a ribbon for this . . .
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/17/13
I love this story. You showed the conflict right off and it immediately pulled me into the story. I also really liked the name, Jersey. It's different, but also seems fitting that he might be a baseball expert.

I noticed a couple of times that you forgot the end quotes (though I thought your dialog flowed nicely.) I also wasn't sure who the MC was. I thought it might have been his mom, but then wondered at the end.

I think you did a fantastic job of pulling it all together in the end. Often, people struggle with a satisfying ending because of the word count, but you handled it expertly. You also nailed the topic. It was fresh and interesting. You wrote it in a way that the topic wasn't overused, yet the story was based on experts, both in baseball and in the human nature. I really enjoyed this, it's one of my favorites so far this week.
Jan Ackerson 09/23/13
During the break in the Weekly Challenge schedule, I’d like to invite you to the FaithWriters forums, where I’m holding a weekly free “class” in various writing strategies. Participation is strictly voluntary, but I give free and timely feedback on all contributions. I’d love to have you drop by! http://www.faithwriters.com/Boards/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=67